Australian Dance Reviews

Eliza Cooper builds her voice in ‘Old Life/Dead Life’

Strickland Young in 'Old Life/Dead Life'.
Strickland Young in 'Old Life/Dead Life'.

The Old 505 Theatre, Sydney.
24 May 2019.

Old Life/Dead Life is the first full-length work by emerging choreographer Eliza Cooper. After successfully creating wonderfully mesmerizing solo and short group works, Cooper has attempted to extend herself into creating full-length work, workshopping Old Life/Dead Life within a series of choreographic residencies, including DAIR (Ausdance), and March Dance (Erskineville Town Hall).

Allie Graham in 'Old Life/Dead Life'.

Allie Graham in ‘Old Life/Dead Life’.

Old Life/Dead Life had some incredibly interesting movement vocabulary, with intricacies and articulations that captivated. The emerging talent in her work certainly did the technical aspects of the work justice, with some beautiful sync and flow, intention, and exploration. Unfortunately, the performers lacked the necessary depth of understanding of the attempted ideas, often the predicament of a young collaborators, and the performance of the work felt rushed and undeveloped at times. 

Opening in a very dark space, performers chew spinach leaves, which also ends the work, and begin to emerge in the space. The first section featured interesting duets, and differing interpretations of theme which crossed over into quirky, but lacking the layers needed to fully engage with this intention. Cooper created some beautiful moments within the immediate vocabulary, utilising sync, connection between characters and theatrical ideals.

Maxine Carlisle in 'Old Life/Dead Life'.

Maxine Carlisle in ‘Old Life/Dead Life’.

A very literal interpretation of theme, which encompassed “rewriting the genesis of the universe”, attempted at abstract artistry, but lacked the maturity to do so, carrying across as undeveloped metaphor. There were some brilliant moments that captured the intensity and thought behind what was being attempted, but more time is needed to sit with this work and allow it to breathe, and sit intentionally within the space it is being performed in. There was no obvious connection from phrase to phrase, so ideas were left hanging, unfinished, leaving the audience unsure as to why we are moving onto the next, or why we saw the last. Very sectional, the work lacked crafted transitions to successfully carry this kind of literal structure, jumping from one section to another, without any obvious thread or purpose, or understanding of how to achieve what is being attempted. However, there were moments of brilliance flashed throughout, revealing the future choreographer, who may be a force to be reckoned with.

The potential in this work, and for Cooper, is that she is attempting to develop her own vocabulary, and finding her own voice, a unique and insightful endeavour for one so young. There is limitless potential as seen in her various works to date, to create ground-breaking work in the future. She has bravely put her first full-length work out there, and although there is room for improvement, should she continue on to create more work and develop her unique voice, the sky is the limit. Her talent is obvious, and we are excited for what the future holds for Cooper. This space is one to watch.   

By Linda Badger of Dance Informa.

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